Dalmatian Dog History
Much like the breed itself, there is something truly magical about the history of Dalmatians. Their history is steeped in folklore, early Dalmatians were believed to have had magical or mystic powers. It was thought they were able to read the mind of a human and possess a complete understanding of human beings.
In fact, the Dalmatian history is varied as they have popped up in a myriad of different places.
Due to their uniquely spotted coats, Dalmatians have an inbred safeguard. This means they will always breed true and and have inbuilt protection from being a cross-breed due to their uniqueness. Cross breeding is very easy to spot!
The earliest record of a spotted dog is 3700 BC. King Cheops of Khufu, the builder of the great pyramid owned a spotty dog. This is the only resemblance it shows to the current breed standard but shows an early Royal interest for distinctive marking on dogs.
From as early as 1700 BC, traces of Dalmatians start to appear in history. Greece and Egypt were the 1st sophisticated civilisations, and it is here the first traces of the Dalmatian were seen. A (now famous) fresco was discovered in the Greek city of Tiryns, now in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens which shows boar being hunted by black and liver spotted spotted hounds. The spots on the fresco had been meticulously painted, which is thought to reflect the importance of the Dalmatian. The shape and style of the dogs and the similarity to the current breed standard indicate that this could be the first real record of the Dalmatian as we know it today.
In the 17th century, gypsies and wandering players in various parts of Europe were known to have spotted dogs, no doubt attracted by their unusual appearance, wit, sense of fun and adventure. This combined with their intelligence would have made them a valuable asset.
In the 17th and 18th century, Dalmatians were purchased by young wealthy aristocrats who would have been sent to Europe to continue their studies. Consequently, many an aristocrat would have returned with Dalmatians. With strong feet and legs, Dalmatians were ideal to accompany carriages. Their large, bulky chests meant they were perfectly suited to barging wild animals out of the way and their natural affinity with horses made them an ideal carriage dog. Dalmatians have an excellent guarding instinct making them excellent security for carriage and horses.
As a result, they became known as the carriage dog, a reputation for which they are widely known today.
It is commonly thought Dalmatians are so called because they originated from Dalmatia, now called Croatia. Additionally, there are many, mostly small islands just off the coastline, which when seen from above, appear as spots. This cannot be the case as they were not widely known in this area until 1930, when Vane Ivanovic who was the Consul General of Monaco to Great Britain and a member of the British Dalmatian Club, which was established in Great Britain in 1890, took a pair of Dalmatians to Dalmatia as a gift for his stepfather, who had shown interest in introducing them to the region.
What is a mystery to this day however, is why they are called Dalmatians!
About the same time in history, Dalmatians were starting to be exported to the USA and to Europe since the end of WWII.
In the USA, when fire-fighting was served by horse drawn fire engines, Dalmatians were very popular for much the same reasons as they were used as carriage dogs in the 18th century. They would run alongside the fire engine, guard and calm the horses, who could become anxious at the scene of a fire.
Although this role became redundant when horses were replaced by steam and fuel powered fire engines, their association with the fire service continued. To this day, Dalmatians are often seen as mascot dogs in the fire service and not unusual for Fire Fighters to choose a Dalmatian as a pet.